NI: Child marriage raised at UN children’s rights committee

NIHRC Chief Commissioner Les Allamby
NIHRC Chief Commissioner Les Allamby

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has released a report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, presented on the 23rd May in Geneva.

NIHRC Chief Commissioner Les Allamby said: “Child, Early and Forced Marriage is one, in over twenty issues that we have brought to the attention of the UN in this report. The marriage of under 18 year olds is a live issue in Northern Ireland that needs to be addressed through a change to the law. This issue is a global one as well as a local one.”

Under the 2003 Order, children of the age 16 or 17 are legally allowed to marry with the consent of their parents or legal guardians. However, figures released by the N.I Statistics and Research Agency highlighted that 68 children were married in 2014, 42 of which girls, 26 male.

The current law in Northern Ireland runs contrary to the guidelines set out by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which recommends increasing the minimum age for marriage to 18 for both girls and boys.

Mr Allamby added: “The new NI Assembly and Executive needs to step up to the mark. Children’s rights must be prioritised and developed government be seen to take its international obligations seriously. Our elected representatives should take the decisive actions required to improve the protection of our children’s rights.”

It has been advised that the UN Committee should appeal to the UK government and the Northern Ireland Executive to instantly take action to repeal all provisions permitting the marriage of children in N.I. As well as asking the government to protect children’s rights by abolishing the defence of reasonable chastisement and increasing the age of criminal responsibility from the age of the 10 to 12 years old.

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